The Good Wife recap: 'The Decision Tree'
It’s hard to believe that there have been 100 episodes of The Good Wife. And perhaps it’s even harder to believe that in its fifth season, the show just keeps getting better. “The Decision Tree” is my favorite episode of the season, second to “Hitting the Fan,” naturally. And a lot happened, so let’s get to it:
The episode opened up with a nod to the show’s 100th: Kalinda’s speedometer was clocking in at 100 mph while she chased after someone. Unsurprisingly, that someone was Damian Boyle. I love that this high-action scene was juxtaposed with a choral version of “Angels We Have Heard on High.” Christmas carols and “in excelsis Deo” just scream action sequences. But more on Kalinda versus the resident bad boy Damian later.
Damian arrived at Florrick/Agos at the request of David Lee to handle Alicia’s exit contract. Damian had been instructed to return her $150,000 capital contribution after she signed the paperwork. Alicia was preoccupied with the firm’s upcoming holiday party. She gave Damian a ball to play with while she tried to deal with everything going on in the office. Eventually, she asked Clarke Hayden to look over the contract for her.
Speaking of the holiday party, Florrick/Agos had sent out 800 invitations, but they’d only received 30 yeses. It didn’t help that another firm (cough, cough, Lockhart/Gardner) was throwing a party the same night. Cary & Co. tried to convince Alicia that she needed to invite Peter. She wasn’t too thrilled with that idea, but reluctantly agreed to talk to her husband. Instead, he ended up calling her first and asking if he could bring his mother along. Super! But Alicia’s party planning woes took a backseat when Hayden returned with some odd news: Alicia’s exit contract had a note about her former client Matthew Ashbaugh, played by guest star John Noble. We last saw Ashbaugh in season 4 after he was murdered. That episode detailed his relationship with Alicia in flashbacks, and this ep was the same.
Anyway, the language of the exit contract attempted to exclude Alicia from any benefits regarding Ashbaugh. Alicia was confused and called his widow to get some answers. Instead, she got an angry widow who threatened to sue Alicia if she came after any of her money and just more confusion. And thus began the episode’s flashbacks. We were reminded of Ashbaugh’s love of Bach’s music, and we got insight into an interesting conversation:
Ashbaugh: “You’re not getting paid enough, Alicia.”
Alicia: “Tell your friend Will that.”
Ashbaugh: “My friend?”
Alicia: “Will. Gardner.”
Ashbaugh: “I thought you meant my will…. My last will and testament.”
NEXT: Alicia heads to court for the case of the week
Alicia tried to get some more answers out of Damian about the contract, this time with Robyn recording the conversation. Unfortunately, Robyn recorded that conversation using an app that added farting noises to the audio. Ooops! But then Clarke Hayden came in with the real bomb: A contending will had been discovered. Instead of all of Ashbaugh’s estate going to his wife, this second will bequeathed $12 million to a charity, and another $12 million to Alicia. Robyn’s “Holy s—!” reaction — which was appropriately bleeped by the show’s title card and “Angels We Have Heard on High” — was pretty similar to mine. Because just like that, it seemed like Alicia was about to become a millionaire.
Off to court Alicia went. Will, Diane, and Damian argued that Ashbaugh’s widow was the true beneficiary of his estate, and Cary and Clarke argued on Alicia’s behalf. Judge Peter Dunaway (Kurt Fuller) presided over the case. The second will — the one naming Alicia and the charity as the two beneficiaries — was discovered in a safety deposit box. It had been drawn 16 months before Ashbaugh died, and written in magic marker. The only witness to the secondary will was Paula Gidfar (Leigh Ann Larkin), an escort. Paula was paid $5,000 for a 9:00 to 9:00. She would do anything Ashbaugh wanted in that 12-hour window. In Ashbaugh’s case, this included an enema (EWWWWWW.com) and a signature.
A very nervous Clarke Hayden handled Paula’s cross-examination. It started out awkwardly, but then Clarke pulled out a huge win for the Florrick/Agos side. The will in question was actually signed after Paula’s 9-to-9 services ended, meaning she wasn’t being paid for that particular service. She wasn’t a paid witness. So LG had to change course, and this time they pointed to Ashbaugh’s possible mental instability when he wrote the second will. But a flashback to a client meeting with Will and Alicia told a different story. Ashbaugh’s motto, “Always play the fox,” suggested that his eccentricity was a put on. Because of the conflicting testimonies, Judge Dunaway had no choice but to consider both wills valid. This flashback was also particularly relevant because it told the story of a time when Will and Alicia were happily together. He rubbed her leg under the table, and that was the mildest of affections shown in the series of scenes of Will and Alicia’s past.
Realizing they’d hit another wall, Will called Alicia as a new witness to argue that Ashbaugh had been encouraged by her influence to draw up a new will. Specifically, a will that included her. The judge agreed to hear them out. Later that night, Will sat down with a beer to prepare to question Alicia in court. This, my fellow Good Wife fans, is Josh Charles’ Emmy reel. Seriously. Give him all the awards for this scene! He started to write out questions for Alicia, and then he imagined her responses as he thought they would play out in court. This was interspersed with more flashbacks of Will’s trip to New York with Alicia to see Ashbaugh. They definitely took advantage of their alone time together.
The memories of him with Alicia were too much for him to handle. As he fought back tears, he continued his prep work, trying to figure out how to get Alicia to admit she’d used undue influence. As part of his imagined courtroom dialogue, Will and Alicia delivered this powerful exchange:
Alicia: “I’m married.”
Will: “You always use that, don’t you. Married. You’re conveniently married when you want to be.”
Alicia: “That’s not fair. I loved you.”
Will: “You made me believe that so that you could steal my clients.”
Alicia: “No. Will.”
Will: “Stop it! I don’t like it when you’re weak.”
Ugh! It doesn’t really matter if you want Will and Alicia together in the long run. This was a truly heartbreaking but incredibly insightful moment into their relationship. And the crazy thing is it didn’t even actually happen! Will’s imagination was cut short when Isabel asked him to come back to bed. Go away, Isabel.
NEXT: Kalinda tries to get answers from Damian Boyle
Back in the actual courtroom, Alicia’s questioning started out similar to how Will pictured it — minus the explosive Will/Alicia moment. This scene was filled with more flashbacks to the former couple’s happier days (read: sexy times). But unlike Will’s imagined version, Alicia admitted to manipulating Matthew Ashbaugh. But she said she did that at the behest of David Lee. (A common trend: David Lee is often at the center of the firm’s shady business.) And then she said that she influenced him to sign the original will. Not the magic marker one. Will certainly didn’t see that one coming.
But after all that, the case had a bit of a anti-climatic ending. Will called Florrick/Agos, hoping to speak to Cary. He ended up talking with Alicia instead. He told her that four more wills had been discovered, each one leaving money to a different woman. All of Ashbaugh’s wills would likely be found invalid. Alicia’s not a millionaire. And things are super uncomfortable between her and Will. We’re back where we started.
Back to the opening sequence car chase: Kalinda learned that Damian had gone to Florrick/Agos, not knowing that he was there at the request of David Lee. She alerted Diane, and Diane asked her to keep up her vetting process. Damian confronted Kalinda about the tailing, but it didn’t really accomplish anything. She didn’t get any answers, and he didn’t convince her to stop following him. They both drove around like crazy people, and after a game of car chicken, Damian called her and said the following: “Kalinda, you need to go out with me…. Me mom loves the Indians.”
Unsurprisingly, this did not go over well. They continued their wild car chase, and Kalinda drove right into a Damian-set trap. Kalinda was pulled over by Detective Jenna Villette (Jordana Spiro) and subsequently arrested. Jenna owed Damian a favor, so she kept Kalinda in the backseat of her police car in an effort to keep her in holding overnight. Kalinda decided to make the most of the situation and questioned Jenna about Damian. But Jenna remained tight-lipped. Things took a turn for the interesting when Jenna told Kalinda she’d let her go if she charmed her.
Kalinda: “I don’t do charm.”
Jenna: “Okay, then sit tight.”
Kalinda: “What do you call a boomerang that doesn’t come back?
Kalinda: “A stick.”
And that was all it took. The next time we saw Kalinda and Jenna, they were in bed together. (And I’m sure somewhere out there Damian was bummed he missed it.) The two ladies shared pillow talk about guns, naturally. And Kalinda, always on the job, tried to get more info about Damian. She may not be any wiser about LG’s newest lawyer, but at least she has a new lady friend.
NEXT: Marilyn announces some unexpected news….
Meanwhile, Peter was taking flack from Eli for agreeing to go to Alicia’s holiday party without seeing the guest list. Peter wasn’t concerned about looking bad, and basically told Eli to get over it. Eli was mostly worried about Peter being seen with the show’s infamous wife killer, Colin Sweeney. Mr. Gold enlisted the help of Marilyn, who wasn’t all that concerned because she had a new pregnancy sound system to occupy her time. But Eli finally got Marilyn on board, trying to convince Peter to not attend the Florrick/Agos party. When that didn’t work, they tried the Alicia route. But she refused to dis-invite Colin Sweeney.
Alicia was also dealing with mama drama. One of the stipulations of Peter’s attendance at the holiday party was that Jackie Florrick be able to come. And because she’s an awful person, Jackie called Veronica to rub it in her face. An angry Veronica went to Alicia requesting her own invite. Then, with news of Peter’s attendance circulating, Florrick/Agos got more than 800 new RSVPs. Their holiday shindig had become the ultimate event of the season.
In the end, Eli caught a lucky break when Donna Brazile (guesting as herself) requested a meeting with Peter at the same time of the Florrick/Agos party. Brazile and Peter discussed the possibility of a 2016 presidential bid, and much to Eli’s chagrin, Peter convinced her to come with him to Alicia’s party. Thankfully, Colin Sweeney wasn’t there. His flight had been delayed. And the likelihood of Eli having a heart attack reduced dramatically. But don’t get too comfortable, Eli. Because in his effort to ensure that Mr. Sweeney wouldn’t be there, he overlooked Chicago’s top drug dealer. Enter Lemond Bishop. Oh, boy.
Speaking of whom, Marilyn told Veronica she was having a boy at the party. And just like that, Eli’s fears about Peter and Lemond Bishop were quickly tabled. Why, you ask? Marilyn said she’s naming the baby…PETER!!
The best lines and moments from “The Decision Tree”:
++ “David wanted me to take [the meeting]. He said, um, he’d ‘rather negotiate with the devil.’ Me? I don’t care who I negotiate with.” —Damian Boyle, explaining to Alicia why he took the meeting instead of David Lee
++ “Holiday decorations, Jackie. Not Christmas. Not Jesus. Holiday.” —Eli, to Jackie about decorating Peter’s office
++ Marilyn’s pregnancy sound system
++ Cary: “What does he got?”
Alicia: “A whole lot of anger.”
++ “Yes. I know. We have lost all shreds of sanity.” Eli, telling Alicia that Peter and Donna Brazile are coming to the party
++ “Sometimes I think of you as Mom, and other times just as this interesting person who lives in our house.” —Zach, to Alicia
++ “Well, maybe you should drink a little more, and that might kill that bug up your ass.” –Veronica, to Jackie
++ Eli’s spit take at Marilyn’s baby name announcement
What did you think of “The Decision Tree”? Was it worthy of the 100-episode milestone? Do you think Marilyn’s baby Peter is just a red herring to throw us off? Or did Little Peter make another mistake? What do you think about Kalinda and Damian? Should they date? Will she keep seeing Jenna? And what are you thoughts about all the Will/Alicia flashbacks? Sound off in the comments!
Julianna Margulies, Josh Charles, and Chris Noth star in the legal/family drama.